Friday, March 4, 2016

A Year in Pictures...

Elena turns five years old today.


I mean, come on! Seriously?!!?!!! How that is possible? I don't even know. 

This past year with Elena has been an amazing year. She has blossomed & her personality has really emerged! I love the way she thinks and feels. I love the conversations we get to have. The way her mind works, she's wise beyond her years. She is confident and strong, compassionate and empathetic. She has all the traits I'd hoped she'd have.

They are also traits that, at five years old, make parenting very challenging. She's a spirited child to say the least. We have blissful days and tedious days in equal measures. Elena knows how to push my buttons and push she does. I am working everyday to be a better parent. It's exhausting...yes, yes very rewarding too...but exhausting. 

Anyway...let's look back at the last year, shall we?

March 4th, 2015

Elena learned to ride a two-wheeler this year!!

She also played her first season of soccer

Just look at those eyes...I can't determine if they are blue, hazel or green


I just love the pensive look on her face

First Day of School!!!

My Little Pony...

Her school photo...she looks like she's in Grade 1 not JK!!

I took Elena to see The Nutcracker...she started ballet herself this year & loved the show very much!

My little island princess in Punta Cana

I found this photo on my iPad. Where did she learn the duck face???

I am so proud of my little girl & the person she is becoming. She inspires me to be a better mother...but more than that, a better person. I love her more than I ever imagined possible.

Happy Birthday my sweet girl!!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Disney World - Day 5 - Homeward Bound

Day 5 had us up early...but not too early thank goodness! I was able to let us sleep in a little since we had special breakfast reservations at Chef Mickey!

I did the last of the packing & we called to have help with our bags. What a great service l was glad someone told us about! They have airline check in right there at the hotel where you can check your bags & everything! Unfortunately we couldn't use the baggage check since their computers couldn't confirm us straight through to Toronto & we didn't want to have to collect our bags at our stop over in Chicago & recheck them. Since it was just a 40 minute layover, I didn't see how that could work. At least we were able to check in for our flights & confirm our seat selections. They had baggage storage anyway so at least we didn't have to drag our bags everywhere! 

This all took less time than I'd thought it would which worked out perfectly as it gave us plenty of time before our reservations to take a spin on the monorail. We'd talked about doing it all week. 

We then got off at the Contemporary Resort & headed over to Chez Mickey. We were early but they sat us right away & we had a great table to get to see Mickey & the gang. 

Pluto came by first & I inadvertently kept calling him Goofy, d'oh!

Then came Mickey...

Then Donald & he was smitten with Elena & stuck around & flirted with her for a while!

Goofy was next & thankfully I didn't call him Pluto, lol

Last but certainly not least came Minnie!

Then it was time to head back to our resort for the last time & wait for our bus to the airport. I looked at buying another suitcase as, when we were at the check in, they'd weighed my bag & said it was just over the 50lb limit. I'd thought packing us both into one bag had been a good idea but with all the issues with allowances, I see the benefit of packing 2 cases. However, all the suitcases at Disney cost quite a bit more than the estimated $50 charge I'd be facing at the airport so I resigned myself to that fact. 

The baggage gods were on my side again as when we did the baggage check at the airport, it came up as being over weight but didn't charge me anything! Even the worker who was helping us was mystified! 

With that we said our farewell to Disney & were headed home. I was very pleased everything went so smoothly. The excitement & energy of the week seeped out of Elena & exhaustion seemed to set in. Here she is on our layover in Chicago

She did perk up when we finally got the courage to ask to meet the pilot. Elena was so excited to see the cockpit & loved that one of our pilots was a girl!

It was an exhausting & exhilarating 5 days! Looking back, there's a couple of things that stick out in my memory as having made things easier or more enjoyable. 

Renting the stroller was genius. I'm glad I took that advice. There is a lot of walking & not having to drag a tired 4.5 year old around is a big bonus. Plus it was a great place to store a bag of essentials like snacks, sunscreen, etc. There is lots of stroller parking too so often we would park it in one area & explore around & come back for it an hour or more later. Be forewarned though, sometimes cast members will move strollers but never very far, sometimes you just have to look around or ask them. 

I loved the Art of Animation resort but of course have nothing to compare it too. I was glad that it had direct buses to Magic Kingdom & Downtown Disney but there was still a lot of waiting & full buses. I think next time I'd prefer to stay at one of the resorts on the monorail line. 

I was glad we got the dining plan but in hindsight could have used it more wisely. I didn't realize until near the end of the trip that we could mix & match with it, like if we'd skipped a quick service lunch we could have converted that into snacks. I would have taken better advantage of that. The good thing about having the dining plan was booking all the character dining experiences. Since Elena got to meet mostly all her favourites at these meals, we didn't have to spend time (or Fastpasses) on character meet & greets. Except for Elsa & Anna of course as they hadn't yet been included in any dinner experiences. Besides, I felt the dinner meets were a bit more fun & you seemed to have a bit more time with the characters than at the meet & greets. 

So many early mornings were tiring but making the magic hours was worth the extra time in the parks. Since we were there in August, when it was so hot, this meant we could be done early enough to hit the pools while most people were having lunch. Being early birds anyway it wasn't so bad. It's that we combined them with unusually late (for us) nights that really made us exhausted. 

Lastly, I'd definitely highly recommend the Cirque de Soleil show. It really was amazing & worth the money. 

Disney really does do things right. Their service really was impeccable & I can't wait to plan our next visit...but that will have to wait just a bit. 

Our next trip is just a few weeks away. We are headed back to Dominican Republic for a week in the sun. 

Then we are heading to Alaska in June on our first of course, it has to be Disney!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Disney World - Day 4

Day 4 was yet another early morning & our last full day at Disney. We were heading to Hollywood Studios for magic hours. I let Elena sleep in as long as I could since we didn't have to get breakfast before leaving as I'd made reservations for a special breakfast there. I think it was the hottest day yet too!

At Hollywood Studios, when they opened the gates, EVERYONE headed for Toy Story Mania...and I mean everyone! There was no way we would get into that before our special reservations so we headed in the opposite direction.  It was like a ghost town! There wasn't anyone else around. We ended up going to see the Muppets 3-D. This was Elena's first experience with 3-D & it very entertaining seeing Elena reaction. 

Then it was time for our special breakfast. We walked to Hollywood & Vine and the Disney Junior Play 'n' Dine! Elena was beyond excited to meet Jake, Doc McStuffins, Princess Sophia & Handy Manny! The buffet breakfast was delicious & Elena loved that they had chocolate sauce & put it on everything!!

From there we headed to Disney Jr Live On Stage. I was a little disappointed. Having to sit on floor wasn't fun plus it was just a glorified puppet show, not what I expected at all!

We went straight over to Frozen Sing A Long. Now this was awesome! Especially for my little Frozen fanatic! It was very well done & very funny. Elena was very excited & sung her little heart out. It was precious!

At this point, it was coming on 11am & it was getting so very hot! Since this was our last full day, I convinced Elena to head back to the hotel. She wasn't all that interested in seeing any more shows & we were both looking forward to a swim before our evening plans. 
After a long wait for a bus, we were back at the hotel & were able to pick up Elena's Questcom before grabbing lunch which we brought back to the room to eat. I sure wish we'd figured out that trick earlier in the trip!

After a brief rest we headed to the Big Blue Pool for a swim. We had a great time & I even helped Elena participate in one of their pool activities: Duck Races! It was a blast! Then we took a quick wander to get some photos around the hotel. Then back to our room to get ready for a big Saturday night out.


We were destined for Downtown Disney to see Cirque du Soleil! Amazing show! Absolutely amazing! Funny & exciting, really amazing!

The crowds afterward were insane. It was scary for me & I was feeling a little panicked. I really don't like crowds. I just had to breath & calm myself and we made it back to the other side where the shops were & then we were able to do some shopping before heading back to our hotel. It was another long wait for a bus. It was so crowded & very busy at that terminal. We did finally make it back to our hotel & did a bit more shopping for the last of the gifts we wanted to bring home. 

Finally back to our room, poor Elena was over tired & exhausted & didn't know what to do with herself. I was able to calm her down & go to bed & asleep by 10:30, way past her bedtime! What a long day! A long but exciting & magical day!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Disney World - Day 3

Day 3 was Elena's half-birthday! We were up early again & we headed for a second day at Magic Kingdom. This time we staked out an excellent spot to watch the Welcome Ceremony. 

Tomorrowland was our destination & Elena was so excited! You see, her favourite show right now is Miles from Tomorrowland! She was convinced we would run into the Callistos since we were in their "hometown" lol! I had to convince her they were probably out on a mission!

Our first ride was on the Tomorrowland Speedway. Elena loved getting to "drive"! We went on twice!

Next stop was the Orbiter...that was fun & we rode that twice as well

Then we had to ride The Peoplemover, you know, because it's on the Miles from Tomorrowland show! She enjoyed this but it resulted in one little hiccup. You see, since we started planning this trip, she was very excited to go on Space Mountain. Well, the Peoplemover goes through Space Mountain & it's pitch black! Elena does not like the dark! After this, she didn't want to go on the Peoplemover ever again! And now she wasn't sure about Space Mountain either!

Poor kiddo! So I figured we'd try the Carousel of Progress for something tame. She loved this! I thought she would get board but she really loved it! 

It also bolstered her courage & off we went to Space Mountain! Although she didn't like that it was so dark, she loved how fast it was! 

Afterward she said she loved it...but why did it have to be so dark?!?! As you leave, you're led into the souvenir shop & what was the main display? You guessed it - Miles from Tomorrowland! I let Elena study every single item. Wouldn't you know, they of course had Miles' Questcom. Elena had been asking for a Questcom for months so I agreed that she could get it! How could I say no? I'd told her she could get 1 toy on this trip & the Questcom seemed like a good choice. While paying, the cashier offered that we could have it delivered to the Magic Kingdom front entrance or our room. I opted for our room, how convenient is that? The cashier said it would be there in 3 hours. 

After a couple more rides, we started to head back to the main entrance to see one of the parades. We got there with perfect timing but were only there a few moments before Elena said, "Why does it have to be so loud? It's too loud!" And she wanted to go. It was very loud. We decided to head back to our hotel for lunch & a rest since we would be heading back to Magic Kingdom for dinner. We had thought about staying for the fireworks that night but after I explained how loud they would be if we were at the castle to watch them, she wasn't too keen...but I had a plan...

Anyway, once back at the hotel, we grabbed lunch & headed for our room. I thought we'd hit the pool for a while before having to get ready to head back to Magic Kingdom for dinner. But Elena didn't want to swim. I was mad at first thinking it was a waste of time to sit in the room watching tv. Plus I was thinking she just wanted to be in the room to wait for her Questcom. But then thought, why not? It was so hot outside & with the pools being heated, they don't give much relief so it was nice to stay in the AC & rest for a few hours!

Later, I got Elena all princess-ified up & we headed back to Magic Kingdom. As we were getting on the bus a mist rain started. By the time we got off the bus at MK it was torrential rain! Thank god I'd packed our rain ponchos. It was so bad, we couldn't even see the Contemporary Resort just across the street! We stayed under the bus shelters to wait it out, about 10-15 minutes then headed to the park. There was was quite a bit of flooding at the front of the park!

Our destination for dinner? The Royal Table in Cinderella's Castle! When you first go in, Cinderella is there & you wait in line to meet her & get a photo op. Elena was so sweet with Cinderella, she was feeling very royal. It was so heartwarming to see the twinkle in her eyes then she made my heart burst when she insisted I come over too & be in a photo. 

We then went up stairs & were seated at a great table right by the window overlooking the courtyard. Dinner was delicious, mine was anyway, Elena just nibbled at hers. Then the brought her the most beautiful dessert!

During dessert 4 princesses came out & made the rounds to each table. First was Snow White, which made Elena's day since she's her third favourite after Elsa & Cinderella. 

Then came Ariel

Then Merida, who is my favourite princess!!

And last was Mulan, which was a nice surprise but Elena was unimpressed since she'd never heard of her before that night. 

From there we had to head straight over to Fairytale Hall for the moment Elena had been waiting for most of all...meeting Anna & most importantly, Elsa. Both were so sweet with Elena & very complimentary of her dress and Elena just basked in the attention. 

I then asked what she wanted to do now. Elena kept saying she wanted to go on the carousel. It was right there so I took her & she got all upset! I was confused & didn't know what had made her so upset...she finally explained she wanted to go on the Carousel of Tomorrowland!!! What a kid, too funny!

After wandering around & a few more rides I realized it was getting dark! We had to make a mad dash to leave so we wouldn't be there for the fireworks! Elena would be too scared of the loudness & noise for the parade & fireworks...but as I said before, I had a plan! 

The first night we were in Disney, after Elena had gone to sleep, I heard what I thought was thunder. Then I realized it was the sound of fireworks. I looked out the window & saw people at the end of our balcony & realized you could see the Magic Kingdom fireworks from there. So that was my big plan and we got back just in time to see the fireworks from our hotel balcony. It was perfect. Elena was awestruck. She kept saying, "wow!" And, "I've never seen fireworks in real life before!" It was perfect for Elena. 

Once back in the room, Elena was very disappointed that her Questcom still hadn't arrived. It dawned on me that maybe it doesn't come to the room but to the front desk. I called & they said purchases are delivered the following day. I asked why the cashier would tell us it would be there in 3 hours. He said that is the timeframe if you have it delivered to Magic Kingdom's front entrance! Oh no! We weren't going back to MK!! Typical of Disney's impeccable customer service, he reassured me that he would track down the purchase himself and ensure it was delivered to our resort, even if he had to bring it himself! 

With that settled, I was able to get Elena to finally go to bed! It was almost 10:30pm! A long, magical, exciting day!